Which Medicare plan is right for you?

October 7, 2011 5:04:44 PM PDT
Medicare is at the center of controversy. Half the Texas doctors who treat Medicare patients are considering dropping it because of a planned 30 percent cut in their reimbursement. In addition, Medicare enrollment begins next week, which is earlier than usual, and choosing a plan can be confusing.

"You have thousands of choices and it's so complicated and there's a cost to making a mistake," said professor Pauline Rosenau, who teaches health policy at the University of Texas.

Medicare Part A covers hospital care at no extra cost. Part B covers doctors and outpatient care for about $100 a monty and you can see any doctor that takes Medicare. Part C, called Medicare Advantage, are private plans that cover hospitals, doctors, and often drugs -- sometimes even dental and vision coverage. Premiums vary widely.

"The disadvantage of Medicare Advantage is that it's usually and HMO or PPO. That means you have a limited number of doctors," Rosenau said.

Medicare Part D is only drug coverage. Costs vary and beware of the penalties.

"You can do without it, but if you do without it, then you have to pay more if you ever decide in the rest of your life to take it and it's a big penalty , at least 10 percent maybe more," Rosenau said.

You can compare plans by visiting medicare.gov. Put your ZIP code in and the search will trigger plans for hospitals, doctor visits, drug coverage along with their prices.

"Just looking at overall costs isn't enough," Rosenau said.

And don't be afraid to ask for advice.

Here's another important change: Medicare sign up, which begins October 15, is earlier than usual. And the enrollment ends earlier -- December 7. Starting next Wednesday, you'll also be able to compare the quality of Medicare plans, along with the price.

More contact info:

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
7500 Security Boulevard
Baltimore, MD 21244-1850 800-Medicare

Texas Medicaid and Healthcare Partnership
Claims Administrator For Texas Medicaid

Health Information Counseling and Advocacy Program
Texas Department of Aging And Disability Services
TTY: 800-735-2989

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